Man oh man, what a great day of fishing. I have never done well on the Arkansas. I had assumed that the flows would be too high to do well this time. Boy was I wrong.
The river was totally manageable. My sense, and this is as likely wrong as right, is that the river is maybe two weeks "behind" this year in terms of flow levels. So July 28th has flows more like a normal July 14th, or something like that.
Anyway, ArkAnglers in BV had said that yellow and green foam-body caddis were doing well. We went to the first decent-sized pullout north of town. Not sure how far. Anyway, the water right below the pullout is really attractive, but my sense is that those fish see a lot of odd patterns with clumsy presentations, because they don't play there. A few hundred yards upriver, though, is a really nice stretch. And I started doing really well (for me, on the Arkansas) with a yellow-bodied caddis (though not foam). Was able to wade into the middle of the river and get a beautiful brown off the edge of the main channel. Moving up and casting maybe 15 feet in from the banks, I started hitting a sweet spot where I caught another 8-9 fish, including on four casts in a row.
These were mostly really nice browns. I just took out the tape measure to check against my hands, and I agree with the claim that fisherman grossly overestimate the size of their fish. I know I have been doing so. The biggest fish I caught this day was a solid 13". That seemed really sizeable to me, and indeed may be the biggest one I have caught. I would have guessed 16" if you had asked me. Anyway, just a gorgeous, gorgeous bunch of fish on a gorgeous, gorgeous day on the Arkansas.
Next day I went up to Brown's Canyon for about two hours. For the first time, I went upstream from Hecla Junction.
There's lots of deep, slow, beautiful water right by the campground (and with corresponding pressure and wary fish), but 100 yards up from there things develop nicely. This is steep canyon wall, more so than downstream, and with reasonably high water there was a lot of ascending and descending of scrambly rocks to make way upstream. I only caught three smallish fish (two rainbows and a brown) in about 2 hours fishing. I also spent another 30 minutes hunkered down over the perfectly overhanging wall to keep me dry during a torrential thunderstorm. Not sure how the rafters are safe still being on the water, but this was one hell of a Rocky Mountain storm. I can't believe I had such a perfect spot, but I was able to eat, drink, relax, play with my line and my flies, wave to the rafters, and most importantly stay dry.
I want to keep going upstream. I wonder if the best way isn't to ascend right away and try to make river-distance by walking along the top ridge? It's terrifyingly steep in places and neither going down nor coming up is much fun. But there sure does look to be some pretty water up there. Chances are, next time I go there I'll go downstream and see if the new understanding between the Arkansas and me, whereby I do well, applies to that part of the river which has so thoroughly shut me down.
Anyway, the 28th north of BV was phenomenal. Thank you, fishing god.